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Cohens Conventions for Small, Medium, and Large Effects

These conventions should be used with caution. What is a small or even trivial effect in one
context may be a large effect in another context. For example, Rosnow and Rosenthal (1989)
discussed a 1988 biomedical research study on the effects of taking a small, daily dose of aspirin.
Each participant was instructed to take one pill a day. For about half of the participants the pill was
aspirin, for the others it was a placebo. The dependent variable was whether or not the participant
had a heart attack during the study. In terms of a correlation coefficient, the size of the observed
effect was r = .034. In terms of percentage of variance explained, that is 0.12%. In other contexts
this might be considered a trivial effect, but it this context it was so large an effect that the
researchers decided it was unethical to continue the study and the contacted all of the participants
who were taking the placebo and told them to start taking aspirin every day.

Difference Between Two Means*

Size of effect d % variance
small .2 1
medium .5 6
large .8 16
Cohens d is not influenced by the ratio of n1 to n2, but rpb and eta-squared are.

Pearson Correlation Coefficient

Size of effect % variance

small .1 1
medium .3 9
large .5 25

Contingency Table Analysis

Size of effect w= odds ratio*
small .1 1.49
medium .3 3.45
large .5 9
*For a 2 x 2 table with both marginals distributed uniformly.

ANOVA Effect
Size of effect f % of variance
small .1 1
medium .25 6
large .4 14
A less well known effect size parameter developed by Cohen is delta, for which Cohens
benchmarks are .25 = small, .75 = medium, and 1.25 = large.

Multiple R2
Size of effect f2 % of variance
small .02 2
medium .15 13
large .35 26

Karl Wuensch, East Carolina University. Revised July, 2015.

More detail on these conventions and power
Wuenschs Statistics Lessons